E452 – Masterpieces of European Literature

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Semesters Offered:

Prerequisite: One course in Literature.

Description: In this course students will read selected major works of continental European Literature (which in this case) from the Middle Ages to the end of the nineteenth century. The focus is on longer prose or poetic narratives and drama, though lyric poetry may be included. Works may be selected from the whole period or may be drawn from a section thereof, for example the 19th century. In the former case, such works as Dante’s Inferno, Don Quixote, Balzac’s Pere Goriot, Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina would typically be taught. In both cases, the approach of the course entails close reading and extended discussion of a limited number of texts (5-7) rather than a general survey of the period.

The purpose of the course is to give students an understanding of the works, of their relation to the values of the time in which they occur, and of the various kinds of issues in literary criticism discussion of these works raises. Some of the historical and critical issues commonly addressed in this course are the representation of reality in literature , changing views of human moral problems, the interaction of world view and literary form, and the role of self-deception in character development.